Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The C-Word

Palmer's last quip in the previous thread reminds me of something that happened recently. I was out on the town with Demo and B-Spot, as well as a comely female friend of ours (who shall remain nameless). We were just drinking away and laughing at some joke and then the C-word popped out, not sure who said it (ok it might have been me). Oops. It caused a little awkwardness, nothing we didn't all work out cause we're great friends and have known each other for years.

Anyway, it got me thinking, Shakespeare asked "what's in a name?" but I'm wondering now, "what's in a word?" I know that women seem to see it as the ultimate insult if a male uses it, but I have heard women use that word to describe each other. I also realize that the social meanings of words depend to a large extent on which gender utters it; maybe it shouldn't be that way, but c'est la vie.

Do any of you have any interesting "C-word" stories to share? Please, everyone - lets all treat this as a challenge to see how much social sensitivity we can maintain.

INTERESTING FACT: Here's an interesting fact from the Wikipedia entry for the C-word: "In British English c**t is considered a foul and insulting word used more often by a man about (or towards) another man, implying that the named person is extremely obnoxious and malicious."

25 Thoughts:

Blogger Bspot said...

Um. More diverse topics, yes. Comedy, yes. Socializing and musing, yes. Talk about sex, sure.

But is this space going to become a forum for exploring whatever juvenile wonderings and gigglings haven't been outgrown, by some among us, in the many years since junior high ended?

Talk about sex can be fascinating and funny. Ruminations on the shades of cultural meaning in certain words can be interesting and revealing. And it's always great to indulge in a bit of mean-spirited commentary on the possible sexual prowess, or lack thereof, of prominent individuals like our idiotic Secretary of State. (But why spare Powell, or Albright?)

But pondering the meaning and uses of "cunt"? Pawlr, it means vagina. It's used to insult women, or, apparently, in Britain to insult men. That's it. So what? Are we going to move on now to looking up "penis," "masturbate" and "intercourse" in the dictionary? Didn't you -- or some friends on your behalf -- already do this about a quarter century ago?

Wednesday, March 01, 2006 4:19:00 AM  
Blogger Bspot said...

And now, as is my wont, let me explain why I disagree vehemently with my own preceding comment. In fact, there are at least four serious topics I can think of, related to "cunt," that could be very interesting to discuss and ponder in depth. And that's just serious topics. There must be dozens of worthy, related, anti-serious topics.

But here are four:

1. Why do human beings, at least in Western civilization, use words for body parts as insults, with the parts we use for peeing and pooping used as medium-strength insults, and the parts we use for sex used as harsher-strength insults? Does the pee and poop aversion have to do with every animal's useful instinct to dispose of or get away from its own waste, i.e., to avoid shitting where we eat? But what is the evolutionary survival value in despising the anatomy we use for sex? Is it because social systems of restraint and taboo had to evolve, even millions of years ago, to stop the species from degenerating into a massive orgy of sex marathons, battles over coveted hotties and studs, rape, and other activities unrelated to gathering food and building shelter? And these taboos led to negative feelings about our cocks and pussies? Or what?

2. Why does cunt have so much more vicious and hateful power than dick or cock? Is female sexuality more powerfully despised than male? Who are the main ones doing the despising in either direction? Isn't it men who use either "cunt", hatefully, at a woman, or "hey you dick," more mildly but still with hostility, toward a fellow men? Of course women use these words too, but don't they use them less? So is it men who have feelings of hatred toward sexuality of any kind, but more so toward female sexuality? Does all this come from resentment about sexual frustration or unrequited lust? Is that the source of all misogyny, or at least a lot of misogyny? Is it becoming annoying that every one of these thoughts is expressed as a question?

3. Why do some people like "dirty" sex talk? Does anyone who DOES like dirty sex talk have thoughts on this? Does anyone who does NOT like dirty sex talk have thoughts on it? On a surface level, why does it seem like it's a turn-on? How does it feel? On a deeper level, what is it about our culture or our psychology that makes some people turned on my dirty sex talk?

4. I think there was some fourth topic that seemed profoundly fascinating to me when I started writing this comment, but now I can't remember what it was.

Palmer, can you provide concise, pithy answers to these or any other of life's persistent questions?

Wednesday, March 01, 2006 4:40:00 AM  
Blogger Bspot said...

And note that among the first words of the preceding comment is the phrase "as is my wont." What the hell does "wont" mean? Obviously I can look it up in a dictionary as well as anyone. But do we ever, ever use it in any way other than to say "as is [somebody's] wont"?

Can one acquire a wont? Are wonts habit-forming?

What about vim and vigor. Must these always come together? Can no one ever feel vimful yet NOT vigorous?

Life's persistent questions. Personally, it turns me on to discuss these things nonstop during sex. That's just my wont.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006 4:44:00 AM  
Blogger pawlr said...

B-Spot, your high horse must have been exhausted after your first comment, so I'm happy you climbed down in your 2nd and 3rd and gave the poor nag a rest.

I did look up all these words a long time ago. Actually I used the encyclopedia, not the dictionary, but apparently I must have missed something since it still, to this day, intrigues me.

Since you suggested it, go look up "penis", "masturbate" and "intercourse". But I'd make intercourse a priority.

Hey what are you up to this weekend? :)

Wednesday, March 01, 2006 6:08:00 AM  
Blogger pawlr said...

My biggest question with the "c-word" is why would women use it about each other. Why would they do this if it was so hurtful?

I mean, I'm not naive, I know females can be pretty vicious to each other, especially when they're girls in Junior High. But usually they're not directly insulting in this way.

Maybe its like the "n-word" in this respect?

Wednesday, March 01, 2006 6:38:00 AM  
Blogger pigletson said...

In response to your question: [regarding the "c-word"]why would women use it about each other if it is
so hurtful?

I don't know. I think we've entered a period of excess. Everyone wants to be bigger and badder and more shocking than their predecessor. I can remember when "bitch" was the huge no-no. Does anyone else? The boys at my high school would get so much shit for calling women "bitches", like it was as serious as beating them. Now "bitch" is used to describe either a woman who is self-aware and somewhat proud of her brattiness or a a gay male with attitude. When people call me a bitch I kind of take it as a compliment.

But now "cunt" is the big no-no. To be honest, I'm probably the worst person to opine on this matter because I have one of the filthiest mouths around. But I'll try.

So "cunt" means vagina. We've all agreed on this. But so does "pussy". If you put "cunt" and "pussy" next to each other it seems obvious that there are cultural differences to their meanings. A "pussy" is used to describe a wimp or someone who is soft. A "cunt" is used to describe a mean and horrible person, and usually in the most extreme and intense of scales. By those terms it seems a lot more vicious to associate a vagina with "cunt" than with "pussy." As pondered by bspot: "Is female sexuality more powerfully despised than male?" I think the real question is "is female sexual power more despised than male?" Sure. Women are expected to be sweet and submissive; men are expected to be intense and strong. Switching those gender roles is totally unacceptable in our society. Because if you do switch them-- you've got a "pussy" (male) and a "dyke" (female). But that's a whole different topic....

Wednesday, March 01, 2006 12:28:00 PM  
Anonymous kyahgirl said...

good for you pawlr-just wade right in and stir things up :-)

I'm away visiting family right now but managed to sneak into my mom's computer room for a bit of catching up.

The c-word is interesting, is it not? Creates such controversy.

Its just a word though, and, like any other, its the intent that matters. I have a wildly feminist friend who de-sensitized me to this word years ago. {I just wrote what she actually used to say and deleted it so I don't shock and offend any potential participants here :-).}
The real point she made was why do women feel they are being denigrated by the use of that word. Do men feel denigrated by 'prick'? I think the thing to do is take the power in it away by letting go all the angst.

Some of the UK bloggers I read use the word as a term of endearment. Its quite funny.

Bspoot certainly is loquacious but makes a good point in no. 2. I think we should have a whole post and discussion about that!

Carry on, you're doing a magnificent job here!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006 2:56:00 PM  
Blogger pawlr said...

Wow, thanks K! Yeah I like to wade right in, if the opportunity presents itself. Also, I'm all for lowering the obscenity standard as long as we're all in agreement on it.

Here's how I feel about 'prick' when someone calls me that: Basically I feel like I've been criticized for making a point too strongly or injuriously, but it doesn't _define_ me as an entity the way "cunt" seems to. My innermost self remains un-remarked upon and therefore consistent both before and after the remark.

Think of fencing, if you lunge forward too strongly and dig the epee in a little too hard when you score a hit. Your opponent might mutter 'what a prick'.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006 3:32:00 PM  
Blogger Kyahgirl said...

ha, ha :-)

are you a fencer then?

Wednesday, March 01, 2006 3:40:00 PM  
Blogger pawlr said...

I tried it once or twice - but I quit - too many pricks.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006 3:42:00 PM  
Anonymous kyahgirl said...

ah, good to know you're not one of those pricks :-)

must dash, back to the mad fray of visiting long lost family!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006 4:01:00 PM  
Blogger pawlr said...

It seems to me that "cunt" implies a vagina projected forward in a threatening manner, one that reaches out, grabs and snaps at a man. As a threat to devour the male identity, "cunt" is as scissors to paper in that kids' game rock-paper-scissors.

Castration fear seems like a possible root of "cunt"'s extreme meaning, at least in North American English.

pigletson - Welcome! Thank you for your comments. Do you think the nature of female power essentially different from the nature of male power, or is the power itself the same but just wielded by a different genders for different purposes? Power for males always seems to be just something they have inside, whereas Power for females is something they obtain and use against weaker men.

I see this all the time in my corporate environment. All the powerful females I have witnessed in our business are capable of being reduced to giggling schoolgirls in the face of a male who outranks them in the hierarchy and can demonstrate his power effectively. Maybe the really strong women aren't in business at all, maybe they're all in rock n' roll bands :)

Wednesday, March 01, 2006 8:32:00 PM  
Anonymous GM said...

I accidentally cut off a guy in traffic last week. I knew I had screwed up, and I raised my hands in supplication, mouthing the word "Sorry" to him in an exaggerated manner. He, in turn, called me a "Fucking cunt." I wasn't offended. I just figured the guy was wound too tightly and had some unresolved hostility toward women. The whole scenario didn't mean much to me but it did come to mind when reading this post. The man was obviously trying to cut me with the most grave of insults. It is interesting that he chose the C word to do so.

Being female is a really interesting thing. On the one hand we are considered frail and helpless but on the other hand we wield so much power over males. Perhaps a "cunt" is someone who understands and uses that power to her own benefit?

Women have the luxury of genetic certainty when it comes to human reproduction. I know that any child I carry to term is mine. Men, on the other hand, can only hope that any given child is theirs. They can feel relatively certain about the fact that they have fathered a child but in the back of their mind there will always be a sliver of doubt. This doubt gives women a certain edge. Perhaps it is this edge that inspires derogatory slang of bspot's 2nd question?

On the rare occassion that I use the word "cunt" to describe a women, it is usally aimed at a person who is mean, vicious and uses her sexuality as a weapon to gain power and position. It is basically "bitch" squared.

As with all words, I think this one will run it's course and, with time, will be reduced to obsolescence or at least rendered socially quaint.

Until then, I can always cut off men in traffic. :)

Wednesday, March 01, 2006 10:21:00 PM  
Blogger pawlr said...

gm - Great story and observations. Its true what you say about male insecurity vis-a-vis replication "issues". Sometimes the truth hurts. Or reality bites. Or both.

Today we have a test for paternity, but our limbic systems don't know any better.

It reminded me of something I read recently, that in promiscuous primate species, male's testicles are generally larger, since more ejaculate is required for their sperm to compete within the womb of females who select multiple partners.

Thursday, March 02, 2006 5:45:00 AM  
Anonymous kyahgirl said...

gm has made the perfect analogy! I like that story (and bitch squared) :-)

Thursday, March 02, 2006 10:24:00 AM  
Blogger pigletson said...

Hey pawlr, thanks for the shout-out. It really warmed my cold black heart. Anyhoo, the topic of female power vs. male power... going back to your original statement: "Power for males always seems to be just something they have inside, whereas Power for females is something they obtain and use against weaker men." Are you insinuating that female power is always somehow determined by its relation to a man? It seems like a huge blanket statement, but I really do feel like there's a lot of truth to it. It wasn't until my senior year of college that I really experienced the hell that is Competition... with a Man. I had written a screenplay for my film class. The class split into groups of 8 and we had to figure out who would direct, who would produce, etc. Naturally I felt like I should direct the film. But then one of the little shits in my group (we'll call him Josh) started stirring the pot and questioning "why can't I direct it?" Surprisingly, half of the group sided with him. Not surprisingly, that half of the group was all male, except for Josh's stupid girlfriend. After long, circular arguments and the intervention of my teacher, it was decided that I would direct. I don't know if any of you out there have ever worked on a film shoot, but it's some of the most stressful bullshit you'll ever deal with. The only thing that can relieve the everyday tension is having a good, rational, productive group of people on your team. But from day one I was constantly being second-guessed. I walked onto the set one day and Josh had taken it upon himself to re-write the dialogue for one of the scenes. I kept my ground and didn't give in. We started to REALLY hate each other. Basically we were all trying to work on a project together, a project that could have turned out beautifully-- but the constant bickering and stop/start rhythm of the production took a visible toll on the end product. Josh's duty (after he was booted from the coveted director spot) was production design. I wish I could screen the film for all of you because you could all see firsthand how horrible a job he did. He was totally resentful and decided to do a half-assed job-- I don't know why-- maybe to teach me a lesson?
I ended up getting an A- in the class. My teacher really liked me and could tell that I was trying my best under horrible conditions. It was actually HE who first put the idea in my mind that this entire experience had very little to do with the group's doubt in my directing abilities-- it had everything to do with the group's doubt in my abilities as a woman. I went back over the whole nightmare in my head and tried to imagine what it would have been like, had a boy written the original screenplay. I can assure you that it would have turned out differently.

Jesus, I can't believe I've babbled on this much. So in response to the original statement, I think I do agree with you-- I think that, by default, men are given power. And by that I mean that they are used to getting it; it's just how it works, and any time a man's power is threatened all hell can break loose. I have to give men more credit than that, though-- I don't doubt that yielding power to a woman could come as a hard pill to swallow (not because a woman with power is an outrageous concept; only because it is rarer), but I do know that there are men out there who could handle it (visibly, anyway). I had a bad experience with some bad boys, but fortunately it has not marred the reputation of the entire male population. I have faith in you fuckers. :)

Thursday, March 02, 2006 9:47:00 PM  
Blogger iBegToDither said...

For the past year I was dating someone whose foibles I grew to love. One of these was that when she was really hungry she would wolf down a meal and immediately collapse in a heap on the couch and fall asleep for a few minutes. Much like mammalian young do (when they have a couch). Upon seeing her do this for the second or third time I spontaneously called her "Piglet" and she laughed so it was added to my litany of pet names for her. On a few later occasions, in the natural process of colloquial abbreviation, "Piglet" shortened into "Pig," though the latter was uttered only when we were alone, of course.

Say it with me: "Hey, Pig." Again, in an affectionate whisper: "Hi, Pig, how are ya?" Spoken with warmth and a big heart, "pig" lost all of it's negative connotations and entered into our private economy as legal love tender. When you consider the significant potential pitfalls of calling your girlfriend "Pig," it's no small miracle, really, that together we recycled the word with no deliberation at all. I should clarify that she is slender and toothsome (ahem) so I'm certain it was always understood that no fat slur was implied.

So you see, conventionally perjorative terms are not so charged when you imagine them as mere abbreviations for much more innocuous words. This view of the interconnectedness and ultimate unity of words probably reflects the historical evolution of language from a single kernel, the putative Ur-Sprach, even a single word, one syllable, a near grunt.

Which brings us to "cunt."

I can't remember when I last said this word, but today I think of the the Indian Subcuntinent, or being held in cuntempt of court, or enjoying a cuntinental breakfast. So many cuntexts and cuntradictions. Certified public accuntants. Perhaps you see yourself as a skilled racunteur. Or a simple cuntrygirl.

Look, it works great for all the "cont-" words, like cuntinuity, cuntortionist, cuntusions, cuntemporaries, and cuntraband. Amazingly, it even works for "comp-" words like cuntputer and confused ones that live somewhere between comp- and cont-. To wit, corporate cuntroller.

There are a million more, to be sure, so I won't belabor it. But speaking of labor, I want to point out that sometimes wordplay and reality merge wonderfully, as in, "Nurse, I think my wife is going into cuntractions!" This evinces the linguistic economy and visceral impact of finely tuned Latin rhetoric. Which I suppose, and I regret saying this but am very weak, makes me something of a cunning linguist.

Other terms provide an equally impressive liguistic synthesis but should be regarded as offenses against taste and decency and ought to be proscribed. E.g., cuntamination. Bleh, a thousand apologies.

I would like to thank you all for your patience and welcome your thoughts.

And now I must withdraw to my chambers for some decantation and cuntemplation.

Thursday, March 02, 2006 10:51:00 PM  
Blogger pawlr said...

I seriously believe now that our site has better comments than any blog out there. Regardless of gender, you all have stones of brass and the brains to match. I'm going to go rustle up some more traffic to this page now and bring the world to our door.

Thursday, March 02, 2006 11:08:00 PM  
Anonymous kyahgirl said...

wow-I have never heard pigleston and ibegtodither speak before. They are awesome!

Friday, March 03, 2006 10:50:00 AM  
Anonymous gm said...

Hehehe...Cunning linguist! That's rich!

Friday, March 03, 2006 3:54:00 PM  
Anonymous transformer said...

Cunt: A Declaration of Independence (Live Girls)
by Inga Muscio

I've only skimmed this book so far. It's an examination of the history of this word. Basically, the premise is cunt's gone from reverence to insult, and it is possible to return it to reverence again.

Friday, March 03, 2006 5:07:00 PM  
Blogger pawlr said...

I've heard of this book, thanks for reminding me. A link for the curious.

Saturday, March 04, 2006 7:32:00 AM  
Blogger iBegToDither said...

Thanks, Kyahgirl, no one has called me awesome since the days of Quarterflash and Speedwagon.

Pawl, brass stones would be composed mainly of copper and zinc. A penny for your thoughts and a lozenge for your health.

You know, Pigletson, I hadn't seen your cyberhandle or your post about film class before I submitted my comment about "Piglet" and "c*nt." I guess we were writing more or less simultaneously and when I published, bam, there were two consecutive comments that referenced the word "piglet." A happy accident of the kind you get when far-flung strangers are lobbing words at a common target. Sort of like making a film without a director.

Saturday, March 04, 2006 12:20:00 PM  
Blogger pigletson said...

Wow, ibegtodither-- I thought your "piglet/cunt" post was an indirect response to the sight of my name! Very random. Coincidentally enough, "pigletson" refers to a term of endearment bestowed upon yours truly by a significant other. Growing up I always loved pigs-- they were so ridiculous and dirty and almost revolting (and those who know me can certainly attest that these adjectives describe my sense of humor). Also, I snort when I laugh really hard. So there you go.
My brother called his ex-girlfriend "babe", as in "Babe: Pig In the City." She was also a bit on the chunky side, so I can't imagine that she took to this pet name as happily as I did to mine. Maybe that's why they broke up. Or maybe it was because she was a cunt.

Sunday, March 05, 2006 3:26:00 PM  
Blogger iBegToDither said...

I pretty much figured that's what "Pigletson" was all about, it's clearly a term of endearment. No one would really call herself that without some kind of suggestion.

An old girlfriend and I used to have a pitbull-great dane blend that gobbled up food like a hog, well, like a dog, I guess, but also like a hog. We called her Pig in the City. She couldn't understand, though, so she didn't mind at all.

As for my Piglet person, she tends to store up her emotions then sometimes they come pouring out all the sudden in the form of tears. Not sobbing, just piles and piles of tears. Her eyes just start leaking, and one day I began to call her Puddles. But I never said just "Pud" for short. That wouldn't work so well.

Sunday, March 05, 2006 5:38:00 PM  

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